Volkswagen wraps multiyear investigation into Dieselgate

The Volkswagen Group has wrapped a multiyear internal investigation into Dieselgate, and it says it will try to pry compensation from former CEO Martin Winterkorn and former Audi CEO Rupert Stadler to make up for some of the massive financial damages that resulted from the emissions cheating scandal.

The law firm Volkswagen hired to perform the investigation covered more than 65 petabytes of data, including some 480 million documents. About 1.6 million of those files were “identified as relevant, screened and reviewed,” the German automaker says. The law firm also performed 1,550 interviews and reviewed files from prosecutorial and judicial proceedings around the world that came as a result of the company’s actions. The internal probe was “by far the most comprehensive and complex investigation carried out in a company in German economic history,” Volkswagen writes.

Winterkorn resigned from running Volkswagen back in September 2015, almost immediately after news broke of the scandal. He was later arrested in Germany and accused of not just knowing the company’s diesel cars had software that fooled regulators, but for sitting on the Environmental Protection Agency’s discovery of the cheat for a year. Winterkorn has also been charged in the US but is unlikely to ever be extradited. He remains on trial in Germany.

Stadler was arrested in 2018 by German authorities, which caused Audi to push back the reveal of its first all-electric car, the E-Tron. Stadler was later forced out of his role by Volkswagen.

Volkswagen said Friday that it’s also seeking damages from four other former board members: Ulrich Hackenberg and Stefan Knirsch (Audi), Wolfgang Hatz (Porsche), and Heinz-Jakob Neusser (Volkswagen) — the latter of whom has been criminally charged by the Department of Justice.

The investigation’s end is something Volkswagen will undoubtedly point to moving forward any time Dieselgate is brought up. The company has spent the last five-plus years since the scandal broke trying to distance itself from its deceptive and harmful actions, and at many points, has tried to pin it on individual actors. (The former CEO of its American division once testified to Congress in 2015 that it was the work of “a couple software engineers who [did it] for whatever reasons.” He resigned five months later.)

At the very least, Volkswagen is now the biggest legacy automaker making the most concerted push into electric vehicles, and it recently increased its investment in the space to $86 billion.